Ever since Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Oklahoma, was nominated to become NASA administrator, space observers have been wondering when his Senate confirmation hearings would be held. Initially, Bridenstine was going to go before the klieg lights in the last week of September. However, the hearings have been pushed back two weeks to accommodate Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida who is said to be busy dealing with Hurricane Irma issues. However, NASA Watch suggests that Irma is an excuse rather than the reason for the delay.

What is Senator Nelson up to?

When Bridenstine was first nominated, Nelson, along with his Republican counterpart Sen.

Marco Rubio, expressed reservations due to his status as a politician. The objection was demolished by many people, including none other than Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin. Nevertheless, Nelson would like to see the hearings postponed indefinitely, citing a number of non-space reasons.

Is it climate change?

Bridenstine had expressed some reservations about human-caused climate change while on the floor of the House. However, he is in the process of finessing that stance by showing support for Earth science research and mentioning that studies of climate on other planets, such as Mars, would have some relevance to that on Earth.

What are Bridenstine’s chances?

Bridenstine is well liked by people in Congress and in the aerospace community.

He has managed to win extensive support for his appointment. The betting is that he will likely be confirmed at least on a party-line vote when the hearings take place. The question that arises if how much will Senator Nelson be prepared to do to obstruct the nomination. If he does try to block Bridenstine, the effort will be seen as bitterly partisan and not based on any qualifications or lack thereof.

Bridenstine’s task at hand

When Bridenstine gets to the 9th Floor of NASA headquarters, he will have an immense task ahead of him. The space agency is still reeling from the after-effects of the administration of Charles Bolden, widely seen now as having been ineffectual. Robert Lightfoot, the current acting administrator, had been keeping things together at NASA for the past two years.

The good news is that Lightfoot will likely revert to his old job once Bridenstine is confirmed and will be available to assist him in putting the space agency back together.

Bridenstine will have to move swiftly to pivot NASA to return to the moon, securing White House and congressional support for that effort. He will have to forge commercial and international partnerships and funding to get Americans finally beyond low Earth orbit for the first time in decades. As they say, no pressure.